Sunday's game against the Giants is the biggest game of the year since the 49ers showdown in Motown. While I'm less nervous than I was for the Detroit game, I'm still having trouble being confident going into games. Though it being a home game makes me feel better. That means there is a less chance of seeing Anthony Davis false start five times. This whole winning thing is still very new to me. It doesn't help that I'm a Sacramento Kings fan as well. Watching my teams lose has become expected over the years.
Is this the game where Alex Smith shows he can be more than game manager? If things go according to plan, he won't have to. That being said, I kind of want that opportunity to present itself this season. I want to see if Smith can win a game throwing 40 times in this offense. Steve Young does too.
Let's take a look at how the 49ers match up against the Giants after the jump.49ers Injury Report (As of Thursday)
Giants Injury Report (As of Thursday)
Henry Hyonski: Neck
Before I looked at the injury report, I had no idea the 49ers had so many starters limited in practice. The only question mark, however, is Ray McDonald. Look for him to be a game time decision. Ahmad Bradshaw has already been ruled out for the game, but honestly with the run defense the 49ers have, I don't think it matters who they have back there. Though it is worth noting that Brandon Jacobs has had trouble getting beyond the line of scrimmage this season.
Football Outsiders Rankings
Team Offense: 21st
Pass Efficiency: 9th
Rush Efficiency: 21st
Team Defense: 4th
Pass Defense: 8th
Rush Defense: 1st
Special Teams: 1st
Team Offense: 8th
Pass Efficiency: 4th
Rush Efficiency: 18th
Team Defense: 9th
Pass Defense: 11th
Rush Defense: 7th
Special Teams: 17th
The first thing I noticed when looking at the Football Outsiders rankings was where the 49ers rank in pass and rush efficiency. They are ranked 9th in passing and 21st in rushing. Basically the opposite of what you would expect. I can see how the 49ers efficiency would be ranked higher than their raw stats would indicate, but the 49ers running attack has been money the last five weeks. I expected a much higher ranking than 21st. Advanced statistics aren't perfect after all.
1. 49ers offensive line vs. Giants defensive line
No surprise here. The Giants rank first in the league in sacks with 28 through the first half of the season. The 49ers had a shaky start with their offensive line in both protection and the run game, but have improved greatly since the start of the season. After being sacked 14 times through the first four games, Alex Smith has been sacked just five times since. I'm still worried about Anthony Davis in pass protection, but he has been very solid as of late. It's imperative that he keep that up. If the offensive line can keep Smith clean and pave the way for Frank Gore, the 49ers have a great shot of winning.
Ballard opened eyes with some clutch receptions against the Patriots, but he will be facing a much better defense this weekend. He has great size at 6'6 275 pounds, but I think Patrick Willis should be able to handle him. I'm not too worried about whoever Carlos Rogers is covering, but Tarrell Brown plays too soft of coverage too often for my liking. Look for the Giants to pick on him throughout the game.
3. 49ers pass rush vs. Eli Manning
The 49ers have done a great job of pressuring quarterbacks while only sending three or four pass rushers. That will need to continue. The biggest weakness for the 49ers defense is pass defense, though pretty much anything is weakness compared to their run defense. The point is, the Giants chance to put up points will be through the air. If the 49ers can get pressure while still dropping seven guys into coverage, it will greatly improve their chances of containing Manning. The Giants offensive line hasn't been the greatest, so the 49ers should have some sack opportunities.
The 49ers squeak out a 20-17 victory. This should be one of the better games of the weekend so my prediction reflects that. The 49ers offense will again do just enough to win with a heavy does of Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter and great defense.